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December 29. 2012 10:57PM

Newmarket company expands export sales


Dave Jermain, export manager for Heron Point Seafood in Newmarket, said his company will use the State Trade and Export Promotion grant to expand its products into Japan. Heron Point is one of 35 New Hampshire companies to receive a matching grant through the program. (COURTESY)

NEWMARKET - For the past five years, Heron Point Seafood has been importing high-quality crabmeat from Asia and selling it in the United States.

Recently, partners in Asia began expressing an interest in importing high-quality New England seafood, and a new grant through the state's International Trade Resource Center will help Heron Point reach into that market.

In all, 35 companies received awards from the federal Small Business Administration's State Trade and Export Promotion, or STEP, to help them explore export markets or boost their existing efforts.?The grant provides up to $5,000 per company in a cash match.

A by-product of the increase in exports for Heron Point will be a benefit to struggling New England fishermen, Dave Jermain, the company's export manager, said.

"One of the issues for the fishermen in New England is developing enough market to raise the prices to appropriate levels. Certainly it is a balancing act ... affordability for U.S. consumers and viability for the fishing industry," Jermain said.

But Heron Point's interest is not all altruistic, he said.

"We are looking for an opportunity where we think as the economies in Asia strengthen they will be able to afford more good quality seafood," Jermain said. "They look at the U.S. as a nation that takes care of its waters, and the quality of the seafood that is produced here is very high, so that is a good net for their interest in good quality seafood."

Heron Point has already done some sales in China and would like to develop its own sales network in Japan, another nation that has high standards for seafood.

Jermain said the STEP grant will help the company spend time in Japan cultivating relationships with customers. "Because it is very much a relationship business, you have to meet face-to-face."

Heron Point will concentrate on marketing sea scallops, lobsters, Jonah crab, sea clams and ocean redfish, all products that are growing or stable resources, Jermain said, and ones where the Chinese and Japanese markets are willing to pay a premium.

Heron Point Seafood is headquartered in Newmarket with offices in Maryland, Colorado and Shanghai, China, but the company is small with only seven or eight employees. Jermain joined the company in January.

He said the U.S. Commerce Service office in Durham has done an excellent job of helping them navigate the Chinese market primarily by helping to arrange meetings in China during a recent seafood show.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) helped craft the STEP program through the Small Business Jobs Act and said exporting is a "tremendous opportunity" for small businesses.

"Over 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States, but only 1 percent of small businesses currently sell their products overseas," Shaheen said. "Through the STEP grant, ITRC will be able to help New Hampshire businesses access new, fast-growing markets across the globe."

The companies receiving the grants are a mix of manufacturing, technology, services and food, said Tina Kasim, program manager for the ITRC. They are using the money to do market research, investigate the cost of getting to the markets, translating websites and software, and paying for booth space rentals at trade shows. Assisting them will be the U.S. Commercial Service and the Granite State District Export Council.

"Without this kind of funding, it might have taken our small businesses a little bit longer to break into exporting," Kasim said. "By increasing the sales of their products and services, they can grow and expand and offer more jobs."

For information about programs and assistance offered by the New Hampshire International Trade Resource Center, visit www.exportNH.org or call Kasim at 271-8444.


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